Target: Roy Bourgeois, former Catholic priest
Goal: Commend excommunicated priest for his anti-violence protests and defense of women’s rights
Roy Bourgeois, a human rights activist and former Catholic priest, was recently removed from his position in the Church for his support of women’s ordination. In addition to encouraging the Catholic Church to change its stance on women becoming priests, Bourgeois has spent many years helping the poor and protesting human rights violations in Latin America, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Although he was warned that he would be dismissed unless he retracted his defense of women’s rights in Catholicism, he refused to support discrimination and chose to continue his activism.
Bourgeois’ removal from the priesthood was specifically in response to his participation in the ordination of a member of the Womenpriests, a ceremony that was not approved by the Vatican. Although this led to discussions of the issue of allowing women to become priests among Catholic leaders, it was finally decided that his attendance at the ordination and support of women’s rights were grave enough violations to excommunicate him from the Church. He has stated that although he is distraught by his sudden removal from the Church, his treatment cannot be compared to that of women and gay people in Catholicism.
Before he started his women’s rights activism, Bourgeois founded an organization that monitors and protests the actions of a military school run by the U.S. Department of Defense, formerly known as the School of the Americas. This school has been accused of teaching torture to its students, and it is responsible for training a large number of military personnel who have gone on to commit violent human rights violations in Latin American countries. Since the founding of his organization, he and thousands of others have held nonviolent protests of the school every year, in hopes of finally shutting it down.
Because he has been so outspoken on the matter of women’s rights in Catholicism, and because of the publicity that his subsequent dismissal has caused, Bourgeois now has the power to encourage others to express their beliefs on the issue. The Catholic Church might not consider Bourgeois a valuable member of its institution, but his influence could eventually lead to a change in some of the discriminatory policies of the Church, and he should be commended for his work.
Dear Mr. Bourgeois,
I would like to thank you for your commitment to women’s rights, in addition to your work protesting human rights violations. There are many who agree that it is time for the Church to allow women to become priests, and your outspoken criticism of this issue of inequality will likely influence others to openly express their disapproval of discrimination against women in Catholicism.
You have been recognized by peace organizations for your condemnation of human rights violations committed by the School of the Americas, and you are equally deserving of recognition for your defense of women’s rights. While the Church might not consider your views acceptable, with time, the Church will be proven wrong in its insistence on preventing women from achieving equal status to men.
Thank you for your determination to end discrimination in Catholicism, and I hope that your wrongful excommunication will lead to others questioning the unequal policies of the Church.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: martinhoward via Flickr.